Yes yes, it’s that time of year again. Christmas decorations are coming out of the closet, people start shopping for presents for people they only see once a year, and the flu comes through town like a freight train. Just like clockwork, the weather gets colder and sick calls start coming in. Whether you’ve been hit with the flu going around, have the sniffles, or just generally feel a bit run down, it definitely is a sign that your body needs nourishment.
When the immune system is run down, your body can’t protect itself from viruses and bacteria. Whereas if your immune system is thriving, it will protect yourself from these foreign substances. But if your immune system is suppressed, you are likely to fall prey to sickness, and result in flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, headache, aches and pains, sniffly nose, and fatigue. If your immune system is over-active, and constantly working overtime, it can lead to a chronic immune response and cause systemic inflammation, which results in a whole body immune response, and eventually lead to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, allergies, and many more.
For the sake of this article, and to highlight the fact that flu season is indeed upon us, let’s focus on boosting your immune system to protect yourself from the flu and common colds. If you were one of the unlucky ones to get hit with the flu, these recommendations will also provide healing properties to aid quickly in recovery, and restore your health.
Boosting your immunity doesn’t automatically mean taking supplements or eating certain superfoods, although those do help. Believe me, if anyone is a supplement or superfood enthusiast, it’s me. But you can also support your immune system by taking a holistic approach to enhance your physical health. Tweaking your diet and managing you stress will not only help immune function, but heal other aspects of your health such as digestion and stress mental health. This means taking into account lifestyle and social factors, your mental well-being, and of course, your nutritional profile.
- Make sure you get adequate sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation can actually suppress immune system function. I know everyone is all about the hustle these days, but just make sure you hustle after you get adequate sleep. Everyone’s a little bit different, but I recommend 7-8 quality sleep hours per night. Sleep is so important for healing and recovering, as during this time, cells repair and regenerate. When you are awake, your body’s resources are being used for other important activities (such as staying awake, providing energy to walk, eat, work), so sleeping is really when the magic happens.
- Drink lots of fluids. Fairly self-explanatory! Drinking water is essential for a thriving immune system. It flushes out toxins, and helps produce lymph, which transports white blood cells around the body. Adding fresh squeezed lemon and raw ginger into water (hot or cold) is a bonus immune booster, as these superfoods include antioxidants and vitamin C-essential nutrients for supporting the immune system.
- Limit your sugar intake. This might be a tough one, but really tune into how much sugar you are eating! Even natural sugars spike glucose levels which suppresses immunity. Learn to drink your morning elixirs sans the white stuff, and become mindful of all the sugars present in packaged and processed foods (or just ditch them all together!) Also an option: sweetening with stevia.
- Support your gut. I said it once and I’ll say it again, your gut is your gateway to your health. Your immune system starts in the gut, where food becomes digested and toxins move into the blood stream to be filtered out. Support your gut by adding probiotic rich foods (kombucha, sauerkraut) or taking probiotic supplements.
- Drink bone broth. There’s a reason grandma’s homemade chicken noodle soup is the olden day magic potion for curing the flu, and that’s because it contains bone broth. Bone broth is rich in immune supporting nutrients, is less strenuous on the digestive system, and contains glycine and collagen which also helps seal the gut. Drinking it daily
- Eat immune boosting vegetables. Both garlic and onions contain compounds that help fight viral and bacterial infections. Vitamin C rich foods include tropical fruits (be mindful of your sugar intake) as well as leafy greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and bell peppers. Mushrooms enhance immune system function, and are also helpful protecting against cancer. Pumpkins, sweet potato, and carrots are rich in beta carotene, which is converted into the antioxidant the antioxidant vitamin A and promotes white blood cell function.
- Eat more spices and herbs. Known to be the most nutrient dense foods of them all. Black pepper, cayenne, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and of course, turmeric! Become a scientist in the kitchen, and enjoy different combinations marinated into your favourite protein or vegetable.
- Eat greens. Leafy greens, powdered greens, green tea. Leafy greens such as kale, arugala, and spinach are rich in calcium, beta-carotene, and iron. While powdered greens (also known as super greens) such as chlorella and spirulina contain high doses of these minerals as well and help with detoxification processes. Chlorella helps detoxify by binding to metals and unwanted chemicals, and is also a type of beneficial bacteria for the gut to increase digestion, and thus immunity. Green smoothies or juices are one of the best ways to get your greens in. Support your local juiceries in town or make your own!
- Take supplements. Of course, focus on getting your nutrients from food first! Supplements can be controversial, but there a few I recommend taking year round. Probiotics, vitamin D, milk thistle to support liver function. Zinc is important for the development and activation of T-cells, which play a big role in immunity.
- Reduce stress. Easier said than done right? Stress levels lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels, which can eventually lower your immune system. Make a commitment to engaging in an activity to lower your stress. Exercise daily, meditate, journal, see a counsellor, or try floating regularly. Preferably at Gravity! Your mental health guides your decisions to make healthy choices, so ensure you are nourishing your mind with positive thoughts, just as you are feeding your body with wholesome foods.
These are all things you easily incorporate into your life, starting today. Make a pot of soup that you can freeze ahead for ready-to-go meals, go to bed 30 minutes earlier, or start throwing some fresh peppermint and lemon into your water for a change!
I am currently taking clients at Gravity Float and Wellness, and offer nutritional assessments and mental health support, complete with recommendations, meal plans, and shopping lists. I am offering 20% off assessments if you let me know you read this post! Sometimes a little guidance and accountability is all you need to kick start the transformation you’ve been looking for, and I’m here to help educate and motivate you 🙂 I’ve been in your shoes, feeling frustrated with stubborn weight gain and illness, but once you recognise that food can be healing, (and delicious), you’ll start seeing the results, and trust me, it’ll get easier.
Invest in your health today, if not only to get you through flu season, but for many more seasons to come. Fortunately, my best friend is enroute to Kelowna to spend 4 wonderful days with me, which is probably the best medicine around!
Stay healthy <3